A realistic goal for a beginner?

August 7, 2017, 9:20 AM · I have never touched a violin in my life, I'm not from a music background, (I played the drums for two years in elementary school) I cant read sheet music. But I've always wanted to learn to play. So Today I went and ordered a cheap Medini MV300 on Amazon. My goal is to to learn to play one song, not master it, but learn to play it so it sounds good to an untrained ear, in six months and play it as a surprise anniversary present. Is that a realistic goal? How difficult should I expect this to be? Note: telling me its unrealistic wont dissuade me from trying lol

Replies (20)

August 7, 2017, 9:52 AM · This is a very realistic goal. I'd find an in-person teacher if possible, so you can reach your goals faster. If not, you can always use online materials to teach yourself, or you can find an online teacher (e.g Skype).
August 7, 2017, 10:05 AM · Depends on the song too and how simple or complicated its transciption is. And if you have a teacher, like Ella says. It might be extra frustrating for you -and the teacher-if the violin setup is not good...so just buying anything might be a hindrance. Do you plan on continuing after ?
August 7, 2017, 12:50 PM · Get a teacher. You can learn something short in six months as part of your studies with them.
August 8, 2017, 8:42 AM · @tammuz kolenyo I do plan on continuing after, I don't think I'll be getting a teac her for now simply because lessons can be pricey. I might use these 6 months to gauge my interest and decide how serious I want to be about learning going forward (whether I want to get a teacher or just go at it alone). As for setup, I've already started watching and reading multiple guides for the model so I do it properly.
August 8, 2017, 9:23 AM · In your case, your goal sounds very doable if you pick an easy sound like Twinkle or Mary Had a Little Lamb. Other simple folk tunes are an option.
August 8, 2017, 11:05 AM · What's the one song?
August 9, 2017, 6:31 AM · Emminently possible, but try and find a tune that you love. There are some incredibly simple but beautiful pieces in the traditional music repertoire that are approachable to a beginner, but that actually sound really good. The Bear Dance or the Sloe are ones I like. Or Spootiskerry.
Edited: August 9, 2017, 10:19 AM · Why do you ask? "Is this realistic" then say you are going to do it even if contributors to VCom tell you it is a bad idea?
In a word, NO, it is not realistic, nor desirable, to attempt it on your own.

Firstly, as an absolute beginner you won't know if your online VSO is set up right and whether it will even work at all. Any instrument that sells at Walmart for $59 as a complete kit (including SR, two bridges!!!, and an extra set of strings) is almost certainly completely unplayable. You will need help to check this and with tuning the instrument.

Secondly, I can't see any point at all in attempting to teach yourself the violin. You will pick up every error possible, have no technique, will be disappointed in the sound you make, and may well give up in despair. If you do decide to continue and decide you are "serious", I feel sorry for any future teacher that will have to sort out the tangle of errors that will inevitably ensue, from you having taught yourself.

Finally, without help, I doubt even an untrained ear will enjoy the scratching you will make after trying to learn on your own. In short, you will butcher it!

Please send your VSO back, invest more on a violin that is actually playable, and get yourself some lessons. If money is an issue get them fortnightly.

Cheers Carlo

August 9, 2017, 10:57 AM · Carlo is right, if you want to make music you need to find a teacher and a music shop from which you can rent a student violin for the next year or two; after that, if you're still playing the violin and have made the normal level of progress you'll be in the position to invest a couple of thousand dollars into a decent violin with which to continue your journey.
August 9, 2017, 11:12 AM · With a teacher, only maybe.

From what I've heard it takes roughly a year to complete the first book of Suzuki and six months to a complete beginner with no musical background and inability to read music, it seems like something that's not even worth trying without an instructor.

With a teacher is a different story; you'll have SOMETHING to perform, but it's not likely to sound good even to untrained ears.

I am one of those fast learner types, and I had played the piano for about seven years when I first started on the violin, so things were relatively easy for me: I had already had a sense of intervals and the ability to read music, and the only thing I had to work on was my posture. Within a year, I made All Honors Middle School Orchestra. Even so, my first couple months of lesson was with an awful teacher (who started me on suzuki 3) and the bad habits still stuck around. Here I am, a few months from a conservatory audition, trying to fix ALL the bad habits I neglected to address.

This is with a bad instructor, and I doubt any person with zero musical background can teach better than an instructor, inadequate ones included. Do yourself a favour and please get a teacher.

Now, would it have entertainment value and will people appreciate it? Yeah, absolutely. But they won't appreciate the music. They'll appreciate the fact that you decided to do something for them and put effort into it. But, again, not because the music sounds good. They'll tell you they loved your performance, and that you sounded wonderful, but that's all just formality. The clichéed "dying cat" imagery came to be for a reason.

In a nutshell: yes, people will enjoy your performance, but not for its musical value. If you really want to continue, get yourself a teacher.


August 9, 2017, 11:18 AM · As I have said before, I have had beginning adult students come to me with a song they wanted to play - particularly "Amazing Grace" and "Ashokan Farewell." I was able to get them playing their chosen song presentably in less than a month - and then start the real work of learning to play the instrument. Having such a goal actually made it easier for me to teach them.

Motivation is a great thing!

And it was easier to accomplish this on cello than violin - violin is rather unnatural to play - just like gymnastics is unnatural to do, unless you are a monkey - so the initial learning curve is less steep (harder) for violin - and especially for adults.Also trying to do this on your own and make it a pleasant experience for others to hear - nearly impossible.

Get some lessons/coaching from the very beginning.

August 9, 2017, 11:18 AM · Guys, I truly value the importance of a good teacher. However, I stated above that it is absolutely not the end of the world if you can't have one. Please respect the OPs personal situation.
August 9, 2017, 12:18 PM · Andrew said: "I have had beginning adult students come to me with a song they wanted to play - particularly "Amazing Grace" and "Ashokan Farewell." ... and I agree this is often the initial goal of an adult learner and has a motivating positive effect, which is essential to adult learners. Playing Ashokan was one of my objectives too, and several years later I am still working on it! Not that I am an extraordinary slow learner, playing Ashokan notes is relatively easy and achievable goal for beginners, playing it well with powerful musicality is another story, and that is what is nice with such "easy" songs, there's room to grow and playing that song well still remains an objective for me even now having reached the level of playing with a local symphony such repertoire as the Beethoven 2nd Symphony!
August 9, 2017, 1:45 PM · Sometimes the musicality is in the words of a song. For example, in "Amazing Grace," the words can evoke powerful feelings in many people that they then try to "put to music." Knowing the slave-ship origins of the song can really add extra feeling.

For me, "Ashokan Farewell" hit home, because in 1950 I saw the Ashokan reservoir in upstate New York with my uncle who had been a lawyer for New York City in the condemnation of all the properties in the Ashokan Valley. Then I heard the song 40 or so years later - nothing left now but a humongous "lake" and the song. In 1996 the violin part was printed in the July/August issue of STRINGS magazine. So not only are all those slaughtered upstate New York youth gone to memory, but so is every trace of their original land. I could "bleed" that simple song up 'til a few yeas ago - when my playing was better, and tried to get my students who wanted to play it to feel that too.

August 14, 2017, 5:46 AM · So, maybe I'm reading this wrong. Your main goal is to play one song for an anniversary?And you want to do it in 6 months? Or is this the beginning of a lifelong pursuit?

I think this is totally the wrong way to approach the instrument. Here are the goals I would replace it with. Get a teacher for at least the first few years. Do it for as long as it takes to get it right.

If this is a one off one time goal, make her a nice dinner or take her out.Give her the best time you can without learning one of the hardest instruments out there ;)You could hire someone to play the song and save yourself a lot of grief. Attempting to learn this with only one foot into it is crazy IMO. You are itching to be a statistic from all I gather.

I've been at it for a year and a half. I have a teacher who is quite good at what she does. I only get maybe a little over an hour practice a day in if I'm lucky. Sometimes on the weekends I can get two or more hours practice. I have some prior music experience.I feel I spent a good year just looking for the right teacher and violin. Buying cheap violins will set you up to struggle.

Here's me after a year and a half. https://soundcloud.com/starise/cliffs-of-moher-the-butterfly-inisheer

I'm meh right now. I can hear all of my little mistakes.I'm giving myself a more realistic goal of 3- 5 years to start sounding nice. It feels good though to be where I am and moving forward. As you can see, I have a LONG way to go.You can sound Meh after 6 months maybe. Could probably play Amazing Grace, but it won't sound very good on a 50.00 violin.

August 14, 2017, 9:04 AM · I don't exactly agree with Timothy's goals, though they are reasonable. Eric, I think your goal is perfectly doable. However, I'd add that this is just a first step and that you will continue playing after you've reached your goal. I would get a teacher if possible, but if personal circumstances (e.g lack of nearby teacher, finances, etc) stop you, that's okay. You can teach yourself if you really, really must.
August 14, 2017, 9:17 AM · He never came back to tell us what the song is. If it's Amazing Grace or Ashokan Farewell, that's doable. If it's Meditation from Thais, then not.
August 14, 2017, 9:31 AM · I think as an adult, we can be very unforgiving towards ourself because we have an expectations of what a violinist should be able to do and we hold ourself to that standard. It makes us feel that we should be able to do certain things better in a shorter amount of time. But laying a solid foundation is key and is difficult to achieve without a good teacher. "If a thing is worth doing, it is worth doing badly."- G.K chersterton. This means that we need to let go of our expectation, not expect to sound wonderful right away, and embrace our limitations for the time being. Every progress counts even though sometimes it feels like we are not improving. But given the time, focus, and practice, the possibilities are endless :)
August 14, 2017, 9:38 AM · eventually, not everyone started the same way. i didn't have a preconception of how much of an investment a violin is when i started. i think that for the OP, as it was for me, it was a direct correlation between how tentative this adventure seemed at the beginning and how much I was ready to invest. I didnt come from a musical family, didnt have anyone i know around me who knew anything about violins, etc. i started with a cheapish violin then a more expensive one (still sub 5000$) that sounded much better. and practicing the violin is Something i love now, really. assuming one is stays in a good enough of a condition to play, this is a source of pleasure throughout one's life, that will not disappoint (at least in the long run)...the more one practices, the better one gets. so you might start with a song and find yourself playing a bach sonato later on.

What is important is that even if it is a cheapish violin that you get the violin checked by a professional luthier to have it well setup. otherwise, one would be shooting oneself in the foot..

if you like it, you might catch the bug and get a better violin eventually. the teacher will of course will be a lot of help there.

August 14, 2017, 10:47 AM · Seems like every time I get a student who's "just learning so they can play a song as a surprise for their girlfriend/wife/boyfriend/etc," they quit in like 2 lessons.

It's not a good reason to learn, apparently.

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